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A new report from the market research firm Futorium finds adoption of software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) is occurring at faster rates than initially appreciated. The research report now estimates $2.2 billion in SD-WAN platform and tools revenue will be generated by 2020, growing to $2.75B in 2021 and $2.5B by 2022. That’s a 130 percent increase from a year ago.

The report notes there are more than 40 vendors participating in a market that is going through several rapid transitions. Early on, the SD-WAN market consisted mainly of appliances that internal IT organizations would deploy in branch offices in place of a router. Those SD-WAN appliances enabled end users in those branch offices to connect directly to an Internet service versus forcing the organization to backhaul all their network traffic through a data center.

It wasn’t long after the initial deployments that demand for managed SD-WAN services started to escalate. As always, traditional managed service providers and telecommunications carriers are involved in a pitched battle for that business.

Of course, providers of routers did not decide to simply roll over and play dead. In addition to building their own SD-WAN appliances, providers of routers ae also making SD-WAN software available on top of their router platform.

As adoption of SD-WANs became more widespread other issues started coming to the fore, the foremost of which was cybersecurity. Organizations found they were spending a lot of time integrating separate SD-WAN and cybersecurity control planes. That created demand for offerings where the SD-WAN and firewall are tightly integrated.

Organizations take a holistic approach

More recently, organizations are adapting the way they approach the software-defined branch office. As organizations gear up to embrace WiFi 6 (otherwise known as 802.11ax), many of them are starting to consider the merits of integrating WiFi networks, SD-WAN, and cybersecurity functions into a common control plane.

It’s not clear what percentage of this dynamically changing market will be delivered as managed services, versus an appliance installed and managed by an internal IT team. However, it’s worth noting that a middle ground between these two extremes is starting to emerge.

MSPs will still be tasked with setting up the service. However, instead of managing every aspect of that service, the MSP gives internal IT teams access to console to co-managed traffic flows. Internal IT teams have rediscovered how critical wide are networks are to ensuring application performance in the cloud. That makes them a little less likely to want to completely outsource control over their wide area networks (WANs). 

Most MSPs will be asked to support customers who are at different stages of an SD-WAN journey. Some may prefer to implement an SD-WAN within the context of an existing cybersecurity framework. Others will prefer to integrate cybersecurity and the SD-WAN control plane, while others will want the full software-defined branch experience. Regardless of the preferred approach, MSPs will be expected by different customers to support them no matter what their ultimate destination is or how far down the path they may be toward getting there.

Photo: metamorworks / Shutterstock

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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